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South Africans’ Understanding of and Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak: An Online Survey
29 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020More...
Background: The COVID-19 outbreak is in an accelerating phase and South Africa has had the highest number of documented cases during the early phase of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. This study assessed South Africans’ understanding of and response to COVID-19 during the first week of the country’s lockdown period.
Methods: An online survey was conducted in South Africa from 27 March to 2 April 2020. The survey was distributed widely among several websites and social media networks, including on a data-free platform· Descriptive statistics of knowledge, risk perception, access and trust in information sources, and public and media opinions were calculated· Estimates were benchmarked to the 2019 national adult population estimates.
Findings: Of the 55 823 participants, the majority (83·4%) correctly identified the main symptoms of COVID-19. Over 90% had correct knowledge of the incubation period, with lower rates for 18-29 year olds· Knowledge of symptoms and the incubation period varied significantly by population group (p<0·001), dwelling type (p<0·001) and sex (p<0·001). A quarter (24·9%) perceived themselves as high risk of contracting COVID-19. Risk perception varied by age, population group, employment status and dwelling type (p<0·001). The most prevalent COVID-19 information sources were government sources (72·9%), news websites/apps (56·3%), satellite television (51·6%) and local television (51·4%).
Interpretation: Understanding knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of people facing the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for guiding strategic policy. The findings assist with clarifying public understanding of COVID-19 as the phases of the country-level epidemic progress, and also directly inform communication needs and gaps.
Funding Statement: None.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no conflicts of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The study received ethical approval from the Human Sciences Research Council Research Ethics Committee (REC) Protocol number: REC 5/03/20.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation